When you think of the most beautiful cities in Europe I imagine that Paris, Rome, Venice, Prague etc all come to mind. And they are absolutely beautiful cities. But Europe has so many beautiful cities that are not as well known but just as stunning.
As a travel blogger I am lucky enough to travel more frequently than the average person – and to have the opportunity to visit some of the prettiest cities in Europe that even I hadn’t heard of before my trip.
So here are my 28 Most Beautiful Cities in Europe that may not be the first which come to mind as well as some of the classics.
28 Most Beautiful Cities in Europe you might not know
Table of Contents
- 1 28 Most Beautiful Cities in Europe you might not know
- 1.1 1. Karlovy Vary – Czech Republic
- 1.2 2. Riga – Latvia
- 1.3 3. Saint Antonin Noble Val – France
- 1.4 4. Verbier – Switzerland
- 1.5 5. Graz – Austria
- 1.6 6. Santiago de Compostela – Spain
- 1.7 7. Baden Baden – Germany
- 1.8 8. Gaios – Greece
- 1.9 9. San Marino – Italy (sort of)
- 1.10 10. Valletta – Malta
- 1.11 11. Mostar – Bosnia
- 1.12 12. Stockholm – Sweden
- 1.13 13. Seville – Spain
- 1.14 14. Kotor – Montenegro
- 1.15 15. Munich – Germany
- 1.16 16. Venice – Italy
- 1.17 17. Nuremberg – Germany
- 1.18 18. Istanbul – Turkey
- 1.19 19. Stuttgart – Germany
- 1.20 20. St Petersburg – Russia
- 1.21 21. Bergen – Norway
- 1.22 22. Edinburgh – Scotland
- 1.23 23. London – United Kingdom
- 1.24 24. Paris – France
- 1.25 25. Rome – Italy
- 1.26 26. Montepulciano – Italy
- 1.27 27. Lucca – Italy
- 1.28 28. Bologna – Italy
1. Karlovy Vary – Czech Republic
Karlovy Vary is the most famous spa town in the Czech Republic. The town has been treating visitors for more than 650 years.
However, it was in the 18th century that the town began to develop and become known across Europe. In addition to its famous Springs, Karlovy Vary Czech itself is very picturesque and also the home of one of the world’s leading film festivals in July each year.
There are 79 different Karlovy Vary Hot Springs. Fourteen of these are currently used for drinking Czech republic mineral water. The hottest spring is 72 degrees.
Depending on your ailment/s your doctor will prescribe you to “take” the waters from different springs at different times. Each hot spring has its own unique properties.
The Karlovy Vary thermal water is unique in its physical and chemical properties. Essentially the waters here contain larger amounts of major and minor mineral elements than the water you drink at home.
Find out more about Karlovy Vary and the other towns in the Karlovy Vary region in my post on Czech Spa Towns.
2. Riga – Latvia
Lovely Riga is the capital of Latvia and the biggest city in the Baltics. It is a wonderful mix of charming old Europe and modern innovations. The Riga Old Town is an extremely photogenic mix of art nouveau buildings and tiny cobblestone streets, all without traffic.
Unlike some other European cities, once you had outside of the old town the beauty of Riga continues. Riga has an art nouveau district filled with beautiful buildings and a fantastic art nouveau museum.
The Pardaugava district is full of colourful wooden houses. Kipsala is a small and exclusive island close to the old town of Riga that has some fantastic views.
And don’t miss a canal tour around Riga’s lovely city canal and Daugava River. It is a particularly nice way to see the Old Town and the beautiful wooden houses of Kipsala.
Find out more about Riga in my post on 23 Things to do in Riga.
3. Saint Antonin Noble Val – France
If you are looking for the quintessential French countryside town Saint Antonin Noble Val is it. This beautiful town has been featured in several films including Charlotte Gray and The Hundred-Foot Journey.
Saint Antonin Noble Val is situated on the Aveyron river – don’t miss the beautiful bridge with its reflection in the river. Cate Blanchette rode across this in Charlotte Grey.
The centre of Saint Antonin Noble Val was the home of the town’s most wealthy residents. In medieval times a town was the safest place to live – and within it, the safest place was the centre as anyone who wanted to invade would start with those on the edges.
Therefore the tallest and most decadent houses are in the middle of the city – and these are the streets where the famous St Antonin Sunday Market is held. This is a good place to start exploring Saint Antonin Noble Val.
4. Verbier – Switzerland
From the insanely beautiful and green of the Swiss Alps to the flower baskets throughout the village to Swiss cows against stunning backdrops the Verbier summer is filled with fantastic and exciting things to do as well as great photo opportunities.
Verbier is the height of fabulous skiing action in the winter – but to me it is at its most beautiful in the height of summer. Plus this Swiss town offers a huge amount of fantastic things to do that are all about summer.
This includes seeing the sunrise from Mont Fort (a strictly summer activity), hiking up to the top of Pierre Avoi, visiting the Verbier 3D sculpture park and seeing the Swiss cows up high on the mountains.
Two other fantastic activities that can be done whether it is sun or snow is paragliding over the Alps and to drinks some rather delicious Swiss wine.
5. Graz – Austria
Who needs Vienna? Lovely Graz is the second biggest city in Austria and for me much cuter than its older sibling. It is easy to see why Graz Austria was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999.
Add to that its 2011 nomination as a City of Design and you can see why it wasn’t difficult to build a lengthy list of things to do in Graz.
However, the highlights don’t stop in the lovely Graz old town. Within a 10-15 minute drive of Graz are several photo-friendly and fantastic places to visit.
From the world’s longest indoor slide to classic castles to rotating glass lifts to sculpture parks Graz and its surrounds will give you a holiday to remember.
6. Santiago de Compostela – Spain
For centuries, thousands of pilgrims have travelled on St. James’ Way every year, finally reaching the capital of Galicia and entering the iconic Cathedral. According to tradition, this is the burial place of the relics of James the Apostle, discovered in the 9th century.
But Santiago de Compostela is very much a living city, with other attractions for travellers, pilgrim or not: countless restaurants and bars where you can enjoy the delicious seafood of Galicia, a UNESCO World Heritage old town centre, daring contemporary art… There’s plenty to do in this city which combines history with a younger modern side.
Enjoy the amazing local octopus and other seafood delights, head to the Sunday mass which pays special tribute to the pilgrims every week and you can even walk the last couple of kilometres of the Santiago de Compostela.
7. Baden Baden – Germany
This gorgeous 2000-year-old town lies at the foothills of the wonderfully named Black Forest. Baden Baden Germany has a fantastic location for exploring the region as well as everything from, of course, spas to shopping to a palatial casino within Baden-Baden itself.
Before you head to Baden-Baden Germany do check what is on. The city is well known for the three international horse races it runs each year – as it is for its Christmas markets.
But this German town is most famous for its spas. Indeed, Baden Baden Germany has 12 hot springs and has been welcoming those seeking to relax and reconnect for centuries.
Today Baden Baden has managed to keep all of those wonderful historical elements but added in more modern spa facilities, fantastic food, modern art and much more.
8. Gaios – Greece
Gaios is the very charming and insta friendly capital of Paxos. There is a super cute pink church on the harbour in the main square and loads of cute taverns. The main square of Gaios Paxos is the centre of town.
It is then lovely to walk along the Gaios harbourfront – home to more tavernas – and my favourite shop Koo which features loads of lovely local Greek designers. Koo Paxos is particularly good for shoes – and has super cute bathers for those on the slim side.
Gaios Paxos Greece also has cute backstreets for exploration. Bouganvillea is everywhere, colourful buildings – all the cute things you want from a small Greek town.
Plus if you are staying in one of the Paxos villas there are 2 butchers (shut most of the afternoon so come at lunchtime or early evening) and several good small supermarkets with all you need.
I also found a nice olive oil/wine shop on the Gaios harbour and bought some great Greek wine. Many of the boat tours depart from the new harbour which is easily walkable from Gaios.
9. San Marino – Italy (sort of)
San Marino is the oldest republic in the world and it has never been taken over by anyone. This small country of just 61 square kilometres sits on top of a hill and overlooks the Italian countryside. So it is in Italy but it isn’t actually Italy – it is a separate republic.
San Marino is home to just 30,000 people but has its own police, its own schools and it doesn’t belong to the European Union.
A hilltop town in Europe is always going to be at least a base level of photogenic. San Marino then has multiple sculptures, is mostly pedestrianized with lovely paved streets, excellent use of flowers throughout the country and amazing views everywhere.
The highlight of San Marino is walking to the very top of the country and its famous three towers which date back to the 11th century.
Another way to get some fantastic views of the Italian countryside is to take the compact San Marino funicular. The funicular will bring you up into the main square of San Marino.
Read more about San Marino and nearby in my post on 14 Things to do in Rimini.
10. Valletta – Malta
Lovely Valletta is the capital city of Malta. Many head straight to the beach areas of Malta and all-inclusive hotels and miss this absolutely charming city. And due to its location, it is likely to be a nice day – indeed Malta is the sunniest city in Europe.
Valletta is best known for its fantastic grand harbour. In its small 55 hectares it has over 320 monuments, making it the most concentrated historic area in the world.
It is a grid town of small streets – and some steep hills – which are filled with beautiful old buildings, cute boutiques and some fantastic restaurants.
11. Mostar – Bosnia
Lovely Mostar is most famous for its beautiful old bridge, Stari Most, a UNESCO listed site. Mostar is located in Bosnia Herzegovina (it’s the largest city in Herzegovina) but can also be visited as a day trip from Croatia.
The city’s famous bridge was originally built in the 16th century and reaches over the Neretva River. However, the bridge was destroyed during the civil war in the area in 1993. It was rebuilt and declared a UNESCO site in 2005.
This town of light coloured stones is heavily Ottoman influenced and full of market stalls, shops and restaurants.
⇒ Explore more of Europe in my posts on 14 Beautiful Cities in Europe 16 European Palaces not to Miss, 17 Beautiful Castles in Europe Not to Miss, 21 Most Beautiful Countries in Europe, 9 Most Beautiful Cities in Germany, 26 Landmarks of Germany, 25 Rome Monuments, 60 Most Famous Landmarks in the World, 12 Beautiful Famous Spain Landmarks and 16 Famous Landmarks in Europe.
12. Stockholm – Sweden
Okay you probably know Stockholm but is it top of mind when you think about beautiful cities in Europe? Most of us think of the cuter side of beauty when we think of beautiful cities in Europe. Stockholm is a cleaner more modern type of beauty.
Beautiful Stockholm consists of 14 islands and more than 50 bridges. Its old town is full of cobblestone streets and coloured buildings. And one a sunny day few cities in the world can match the beauty of Stockholm.
13. Seville – Spain
Barcelona and Madrid tend to be top of mind when it comes to Spain. However, my personal opinion is that little Seville in the south of Spain is far more attractive than the two.
This atmospheric city is wonderfully relaxed yet buzzes with an undercurrent of energy. This could well be influenced by the flamenco dancing and music for which it is so well known.
The Plaza de Espana has some of the most beautiful tiling work you will ever see and don’t miss the stunning and very photogenic Plaza de toros de la Real Maestranza de Caballería de Sevilla, home to one of the most famous bullfighting festivals in the world.
14. Kotor – Montenegro
Kotor is a coastal town in Montenegro which is situated between the majest limestone cliffs of Mt Lovcen and the Adriatic coast. It is extremely scenic – from its location to its small streets to the wonderful views over the city as you hike up the cliff.
The old city is a UNESCO world heritage site and was buit between the 12th and 14th centuries and its city walls have protected the 4 kms of Kotor since that time.
Wander through the old town, check out the many cats that call Kotor home, climb up to the castle of San Giovanni or take a tour of the bay of Kotor.
15. Munich – Germany
One of Germany’s most famous cities hosts historic sites and buildings, outstanding tourist activities, green parks, castles, and more. The Bavarian city is known for castles and amazing forested surroundings (the views in winter are spectacular).
There seems to be a museum on every street, where you can marvel at fine art, technology, and natural history! Spires from churches and older buildings dot the skyline, rising above new homes or classic German apartment roofs. In fact, most of the inner city is car-free, making this the ultimate walking city in Germany.
Be sure to check into:
- The Residence Palace (especially the Antiquarium dining hall)
- Nymphenburg Palace
- Hofbräuhaus München
16. Venice – Italy
Canals, waterways and bridges are a bit like good bone structure when it comes to making a city beautiful. And Venice has a lot of all three of those. Venice is actually 117 different islands that are linked by 150 canals and about 400 bridges or pieces of pavement.
Venice is literally built on water. The base of its buildings go deep into the ground. As the soil is so water logged there is no oxygen in it and thus no decay.
Venice and its delights are best explored on foot or by water. The Piazza San Marco is the centre of Venice and home to the magnificent Basilica San Marco – which also has some fantastic views of Venice (it is where I took the photo below).
Don’t miss the Rialto Bridge, the many Venetian Palaces, the Accademia Gallery and the Bridge of Sighs. Or a trip to the home of beautiful coloured glass Murano.
My personal favourite way to experience Venice is on Vaporetto Line 1. This water bus allows anyone to see Venice from the water (where it is often at its most beautiful), mingle with the locals, and really experience one of the world’s most beautiful cities.
17. Nuremberg – Germany
Nuremberg is the capital of a region called Franconia. It has a history dating all the way back to the Holy Roman Empire. Much of the old city is encircled by a wall built in those times.
Though the name is often historically associated with a darker time in German history – the Nuremberg Trials – it is known today as a city of immense historic architectural beauty. Here are a few of the main sites to visit:
- Albrecht Dürer’s House
- City Walls
- Germanisches Nationalmuseum
- Schöner Brunnen
- St. Lorenz Church
- St. Sebaldus Church
18. Istanbul – Turkey
Istanbul in Turkey is literally where east meets west. This beautiful city is the perfect place to get your feet wet so to speak if you’re keen to explore the Middle East or Africa. This atmospheric city has all the magic of the Middle East and North Africa with a slightly more European feel.
The Blue Mosque is possibly Istanbul’s most famous attraction. The mosque has six minarets or towers and several domes. It isn’t actually blue – it was named the Blue Mosque because of its beautiful interior tiles – but it is absolutely stunning.
Two of top places to visit in Istanbul – The Blue Mosque and Hagia or Aya Sofya – are located on the same main square in the Istanbul neighborhood of Sultanahmet. Very convenient.
Hagia Sofya has had several lives. It began as an Orthodox Cathedral and was turned into a mosque. In 1935, Ataturk proclaimed it a museum – although it is still considered by many to be the second biggest cathedral in the world.
30 million tiny gold mosaic tiles cover the interior of the church. Yes, 30 million – that isn’t a typo. Make sure you head up the stairs to the mezzanine as it provides one of the best views of this stunning museum/church.
Both the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofya are particularly stunning at sunset. I suggest gaining access to one of Istanbul’s many bars and restaurants with a terrace and a view and settling in for sunset.
⇒ Hagia Sophia is the number one tourist attraction in Turkey so don’t waste time standing in queues – book your Skip the line ticket for Hagia Sophia
Topkapi Palace is one of my favourite Istanbul tourist attractions. This palace was used between the 15th and 19th centuries and apparently was a hot place to go during the Ottoman Empire.
Topkapi Palace Istanbul is stunning and filled with lots of fantastic Instagram opportunities – particularly the colourful tiles.
The Grand Bazaar or Kapali Carsi is the largest covered market in Turkey with over 4,000 shops. This market contains everything you could ever imagine needing.
From, of course, carpets to jewelry to lanterns to pajamas. It can be quite overwhelming. The market is 30,700 square metres and has 60 streets and is a must in any Istanbul itinerary.
19. Stuttgart – Germany
While car enthusiasts will have the Porsche and Mercedes-Benz factory tours top of their list, Stuttgart on the Neckar River is a truly beautiful old city bordering the Black Forest. Incidentally, this is also where the original cake recipe comes from.
There are dozens of castles to visit in and around the city as well.
- Ludwigsburg Residential Palace
- Solitude Palace
- Stuttgart Train Station
- Stuttgart’s Municipal Library
- The Old Castle
20. St Petersburg – Russia
Like Venice, St Petersburg is spread across a mix of big and small islands, setting it up for being one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The city itself also has several fairytale like ornate buildings and it is also considered the cultural capital of Russia.
Perhaps the attraction for which St Petersburg is best known is the Hermitage Museum. Not only does the Hermitage contain 3 million works of art, it is also in a beautiful confection of a building and filled with stunning rooms, arches, staircases and more architectural features.
The beautiful cathedral at the Peter and Paul fortress would also look happily at home on the top of an elaborate cake. However, this cathedral almost looks plain next to the amazing onion-domed Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood (also a great name – Alexander 11 was assassinated on this spot).
The lovely River Neva and a series of canals are at the heart of St Petersburg and some of its most beautiful features. Stroll along the waterfronts as the sun sets and see this beautiful city from the water on a cruise.
21. Bergen – Norway
Lovely Bergen is the gateway city to Norway’s famous fjords. But it also has more than enough going on to warrant spending a couple of nights in this beautiful city.
Part of Bergen’s beauty comes from its location. This Norwegian city is surrounded by mountains and fjords. Bergen is also known as the city of seven mountains based on the seven peaks around it.
Bergen is Norway’s second-largest city with a population of 280,000 (Oslo is about twice that size). One of its most popular tourist destinations is the cute and colourful harbour known as Bryggen.
The colourful houses are now filled with arts and crafts stores, cafes and restaurants. And don’t miss the cute backstreets of Bryggen.
To gain one of the best view in Bergen hop on the funicular up to Floyen. The funicular takes all of six minutes to get to the top and the views are stunning. Once you’re finished go for a stoll through the super cute neighborhood of Sandviken.
22. Edinburgh – Scotland
Edinburgh as a city used to be literally just the royal mile area or what is now the Old Town Edinburgh. The city is built on hills so when it began to fill up the only way to accommodate people was to go up and down.
Streets known as Closes began to be filled with houses literally on top of each other. And thus began the creation of a city under Edinburgh. This is just one of the many interesting things to do in Edinburgh.
The Royal Mile is the central street in Edinburgh and is home to historic buildings, shops, several tourist attractions and lots of atmosphere – particularly during August.
It takes about 15 minutes to walk from Holyrood Castle at one end to Edinburgh Castle at the other end.
Arthur’s Seat is home to one of the best views over Edinburgh. It takes about 30 minutes to walk up to the top. Do be careful with the weather as boy is it windy on a windy day.
23. London – United Kingdom
London must come first in this list as it is my hometown. London isn’t known for having the best weather in the world but when the sun shines and you’re on the Thames any city in the world would be hard pressed to beat beautiful London.
“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life” is the famous quote from Samuel Johnson and I couldn’t agree more. London is home to some of the world’s most famous landmarks from Buckingham Palace to Big Ben to Westminster Abbey and well I could go on and on.
There are 35 different bridges in London along the Thames – from the beautiful pastel coloured Albert Bridge to world famous Tower Bridge. Experience some of the best art in the world at the Royal Academy, the Tate, Tate Modern, National Gallery and many more such institutions.
A key part of London’s beauty is its lovely parks – beloved by its residents. London has 3,000 parks and believe it or not 40% of the city is green. Hyde Park is the best known but don’t miss stunning Richmond Park and its deers and views over London and gorgeous Holland Park.
Head off the beaten path and explore London’s street art scene in the East, take a rubbish tour and see lesser known green spots such as the Isle of Dogs, visit the coloured houses of Notting Hill or enjoy a gourmet meal on a London bus whilst experiencing fantastic views of the city.
Whilst they don’t add to the city’s beauty there is also an amazing London food scene to enjoy inbetween iconic landmarks as well as some unbeatable shopping on Regent Street, at Selfridges, on the Kings Road and so many more.
⇒ Heading to London? Check out my posts on 13 Unusual Experiences in London, the best London Food Tours, my virtual London Travel Blog, some great Earlsfield restaurants, 14 Things to do in Notting Hill, restaurants near Clapham Junction and Victoria Station restaurants, 16 Famous Landmarks in Europe, a mad hatter afternoon tea party and a day trip to Brighton, 18 Landmarks of London from a local, 15 Places to see Sunsets in London, 9 Places to watch the Sunrise in London, 10 Bridges in London Not to Miss and Cotswolds tour from London options.
24. Paris – France
I don’t think it is possible to put together a list of Euriope’s most beautiful cities and not included Paris. The city of lights, the city of love, whichever name you want to call it, love it or hate it there is no doubt that Paris is absolutely beautiful.
Paris, of course, is known for its famous landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, Louvre etc. However, for me what makes Paris beautiful is the charm and detail in its 20 arrondissements. Cobblestone streets, beautiful buildings, atmospheric cafes with wicker outdoor chairs arranged just so – it is the combination of these details that gives the average Paris street so much charm.
The Seine River and its beautiful bridges are critical elements of Paris’ beauty. Indeed there are 37 bridges in Paris – 2 more than the bridges in London – and one of the best ways to enjoy Paris is a cruise under those bridges on the Seine.
Although only 10% of Paris is green, when it is green it is stunning. From the Jardin du Luxembourg to Jardin des Tuileries to the Interior Garden at the Petit Palais Paris does a garden well.
Paris is at its most beautiful first thing in the morning and heading into the evening as the light softens and changes and bathes this beautiful city in a glow. Sunrise in Paris, as well as the sunset in Paris, are not to be missed.
⇒ If you like beautiful European towns check out my posts on Saint Antonin Noble Val and Tarn et Garonne in France, 30 Famous Landmarks in France, 10 Beautiful Bridges in France, 10 Beautiful Lakes in France and the 6 Best Places to Watch the Sunrise in Paris
25. Rome – Italy
With over 280 fountains and more than 900 churches alone Rome is fully equipped with enough architectural landmarks to earn a spot on this list. Then add the Colosseum, the Vatican and the Pantheon plus all the other significant buildings in this city and you have a shoe in for any list of the most beautiful cities in the world.
It often seems like Rome has enough spectacular buildings and tourist attractions in each block to support a separate city. However, like Paris much of the beauty of Rome is in the details
It is in the cobblestone streets, the beautiful Piazzas, a Vespa perfectly posed next to an ancient building and of course the beautiful inhabitants of Rome.
And don’t miss some of Rome’s beautiful neighborhoods like Trastavere and Parioli for quieter but just as atmospheric Roman experiences.
26. Montepulciano – Italy
Montepulciano is quite frankly heaven for wine lovers. This stunning hilltop Tuscan town is ridiculously beautiful and it is just filled with wine. Wineries, red wine, white wine, wine cellars, oak casks, wine shops, wine bars – it really is just wine-tastic! There are so many wineries in Montepulciano.
In addition to all that wine, Montepulciano is also a beautiful hilltop town. It is pedestrianised and full of small steep streets oozing with atmosphere – and some amazing restaurants and wine bars.
The main square of Montepulciano sits right at the top of the town and has a beautiful church and tower.
27. Lucca – Italy
Lovely Lucca is the quintessentially beautiful Tuscan town. This walled city is filled with atmospheric back streets and cobblestones. It is known as the city of 100 churches so there are loads to visit if that’s your thing.
Piazza San Martino is home to Lucca’s very impressive Duomo. Piazza dell Anfiteatro was once a Roman ampitheatre. The Basilica San San Michele in Foro is another stunning church in Lucca.
For me the highlight of Lucca was walking its medieval walls. The walls have been very well preserved and it is possible to walk the entire circumference of the city.
Torre delle Ore provides a fantastic view and photo opportunity of the rooftops of Lucca.
28. Bologna – Italy
Bologna, Italy is popular as a holiday destination for a variety of reasons. The city has historical appeal, housing the oldest university in the western world.
It also features charming architecture, with over 20 towers dotted throughout the area. As well as numerous grand churches and cathedrals. And some of these historic buildings are home to the loveliest boutique hotels in Bologna.
Although Bologna has a well-preserved historical centre, it still exudes a trendy cosmopolitan character owing to its large student population. Its trendy atmosphere is perfectly complemented by its culinary reputation.
As the capital city of Emilia-Romagna, it forms part of a region with a food history just as old as its celebrated university.
Find out where to stay in my post on Bologna Boutique Hotels.
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